Knicks Hire Derek Fisher as New Head Coach
By Brian Mahoney
Derek Fisher was never the best player, certainly not the tallest or quickest.
But whether on the court with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, or across the bargaining table from David Stern and Adam Silver, he never feared taking the shot, speaking his mind, or doing whatever else was expected of a leader.
So he has every attribute the New York Knicks need — except experience as a coach, the job they hired him to do.
“But I am experienced,” Fisher said. “Basketball is a game that I am experienced in playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group of people achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete, and that’s being a champion. That I have experience in, and that’s the experience that I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization.”
That’s what made Phil Jackson turn to one of his most trustworthy former players for his first coaching hire. Just days after finishing his 18th season, the 39-year-old Fisher was tabbed to replace Mike Woodson, whom Jackson fired in his first major move as team president.
Fisher won five championships playing for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and was known for his knack for hitting clutch postseason shots while playing an NBA-record 259 playoff games. But some of his most important work came in the locker room, just as it will now.
“He made some incredible shots in the playoffs, always stepped into the vacuum of leadership, but more than anything else it was the ability of Derek to speak the truth from what the sense of the group was,” Jackson said during a press conference at the Knicks’ training center in Greenburgh, New York.